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From unplanned settlement to new housing development in Kigali city: the case study of Amahoro cell, Muhima sector

par John MUGISHA
National University of Rwanda - Bachelor's degree 2011

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2.2 Definitions of the working concepts

Unplanned settlement:unplanned settlements are areas where housing is not in compliance with current planning and building regulations (unauthorized housing).

Housing:act of providing shelter or lodging.

Slum:usually a heavily populated area, characterized by poverty, poor housing, etc. (

Slum clearance:the removal of old decrepit buildings to allow the land to be put to a better and more productive use; also frequently referred to as urban renewal (

Slum upgrading:the consistence of physical, social, economic, organizational and environmental improvements to slums undertaken cooperatively and locally among citizens, community groups, businesses and local authorities (Wikipedia).

Public interest: welfare of the general public in which the whole society has a stake and which warrants recognition, promotion and protection by the government and its agencies (legal-dictionary). According to the law No. 18/2007 of 19/04/2007 relating to expropriation in public interest in Rwanda, an act of public interest is an act of government, public institution, nongovernmental organization, legally accepted associations operating in the country or of an individual, with an aim of public interest.

Expropriation:according to business dictionary, expropriation is a compulsory seizure or surrender of private party for the state's purposes, with little or no compensation to the property's owner. Governments or their agencies can affect an expropriation by making changes in legal code, tax code or regulations such as zoning. According to the law No. 18/2007 of 19/04/2007 relating to expropriation in public interest in Rwanda, expropriation is defined as the taking of private property in public interest aimed at development, social welfare, security and the territorial integrity.

Relocation:the establishment in a new residence or place of business.

Informal settlement:areas where groups of housing units have been constructed on land that the occupants have no legal claim to, or occupy illegally.

Master plan:according to, a master plan isa comprehensive document that describes, in narrative and with maps, an overall development concept of a city or planned-use development.

2.3 Problem statement

The world is faced with the reality that many large- and medium-sized cities are increasingly becoming areas of impoverished urban exclusion, surrounding comparatively small pockets of urban wealth (UN-Habitat, 2003). Frequently, this trend is the spatial outcome of mismatches and disconnections between national macro-policies and the absence of coherent connections with the policies at the city level. Worldwide, cities are predominantly and preferred residential locus of the majority of the population. However, a big number of this urban population live in informal settlements due to poverty since most of them are rural-urban migrants with low or no income. This has increased the need for adequate housing in urban areas (MININFRA, 2008).

Most cities in sub-Saharan Africa and some in northern Africa and western Asia showed considerable housing stress, with rents and prices rising substantially while incomes fell, probably corresponding to higher occupancy rates (UN-Habitat, 2003). In addition, slum areas increased in most cities, and the rate of slum improvement was very slow or negligible in most places. Most governments have established policies to camp down the problem of slums/informal settlements but these policies seemed to treat symptoms rather than eradicating the problem.

In South Africa, a very large housing program reduced the numbers in informal settlements significantly. However, the housing formalization that occurred in South Africa reinforced the marginalization and stigmatization of the poor (Bond and Tait, 1997:28). The process of housing in South Africa is taking place within a context of widespread poverty (Smit, 2000). Smit's report revealed that unemployment rate was 34% and an estimated 39% of the population had less than minimum nutritional intake of 2000 Kcal per day according to the 1996 census. This implies that providing necessary infrastructures alone by the government cannot uproot informal settlements.

In 2008, the government of Rwanda adopted the national urban policy that aims at guiding government objectives and priorities in line with the objectives as laid down particularly in the vision 2020, the EDPRS and the national investment strategy (MININFRA, 2008). According to the aims of vision 2020, about 30% of the population will live in cities with access to basic infrastructure necessary to ensure sustainable development. However, there is a big challenge of addressing the existing informal settlements that comprise a larger part of Rwandan urban areas.

Slums and poor settlements characterize Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, like any other city in third world countries. The current statistics by Kigali city council (KCC) show that the unplanned settlements comprise a massive more than 70 percent (Martin, 2007). Some individuals in Kigali City were formerly allocated plots and they built without plan irrespective of the laws governing the built environment of the country. This resulted into slums and poor structures that hinder infrastructure development and the government's ability to provide other services in such areas.

During the postcolonial era, soon after independence, the republic of Rwanda decided to make Kigali the capital city of Rwanda. This designation as capital of Rwanda and relocation of all national ministry functions fueled growth of Kigali beyond the Nyarugenge hill to five neighboring hills: Nyamirambo, Gikondo, Kimihurura, and Kacyiru. From 1962 to 1984, the population and the built area of Kigali expanded rapidly. The population grew at around 16% from around 6,000 people to over 150,000. The built area expanded over 12 square kilometers. Kigali continued to expand until 1994 without prior urban planning.

After 1994 genocide, a massive population from exile in neighboring countries, and immigrants from rural areas in fear of insecurity, settled in Kigali city by acquiring land illegally and constructing informal houses. The rural-urban exodus to Kigali city continued, and currently the population of Kigali city is about one million. Informal settlement/slum quarters developed and grew in areas such as Muhima in a place commonly known as «Kiyovu cy'abakene», Kimihurura, Kimicanga, Gikondo and Nyamirambo. These slum areas shelter the majority of urban poor who have no regular income and they characterized by high fertility rates. The high density of the houses in informal settlements results in poor sanitation, lack of infrastructure such as roads, water supply and other basic public utilities.

In order to direct urban development for the next 30-50 years, Kigali conceptual master plan (KCMP) was established in 2007 after two years of study. The implementation of KCMP is hindering the majority of Kigali city urban dwellers in informal settlements (most of whom low-income earners) from making small redevelopments on their houses or extending them because they do not conform to the required construction standards or minimum plot size. In addition, these people may be settling in an area that is planned for other land use rather than residential according to the master plan and may be susceptible to relocation. In line with the implementation of KCMP, Kigali master plan implementation projects have been developed starting with immediate developmental zones.

Among these projects is the central business district (CBD) development project that will be implemented in phases. In phase 1, central business district 1(CBD1) will be developed and will cover a total project area of 150Ha of Muhima sector. In phase 2, central business district 2 (CBD2) will be developed and will focus on the upgrading of the existing CBD. This will be an ongoing scheme that will involve the active participation of the existing business community of this area.

As part of the implementation phase of CBD1, a quarter known as `Kiyovu cy'abakene' in Ubumwe cell was cleared. According to detailed master plan for CBD1 (Anandan and Hrydhal, 2010), the cleared site was selected for the development of phase 1 of the CBD- the city's first experience in developing large-scale commercial development. This site has been marked for high-end commercial and mix use developments, supported by high-quality public spaces and facilities. A central green space flanked by high-rise and office blocks mark the core of the development. In order to develop the CBD, privately-owned land need to be acquired. This means that compensating them through expropriation must relocate residents in the selected site. Some expropriated residents in `Kiyovu cy'abakene' were helped to acquire new houses in Batsinda while others were not satisfied with the standard of the constructed houses and the available infrastructures in Batsinda and were given their compensations and went to find their chosen standard of houses. Most of the expropriated residents say that compensations are low compared to the cost of land after clearance of their houses. They complain that they were paid cheaply and that Kigali city wanted to make enormous profits from Ubumwe cell (Ester, 2009). The cost of land in Ubumwe cell after expropriation is several times higher than the expropriation cost. This seems to be the reason why investors are reluctant to acquire land in this site for the construction of proposed buildings.

Amahoro cell is another site in Muhima that will be developed for a new CBD (CBD1). Currently, a relatively large part of Amahoro cell is predominantly settled by residents in semi-permanent, high-density houses, scattered and found in and around the wetland. This situation implies that the government, Kigali city or investors must acquire land from private owners for the development of the CBD, construction of necessary infrastructure or conservation of the wetland and green spaces.

The problem is however, how the low-income earners in informal/slum settlements of these areas will cope with this new development. Will they be expropriated and released to find new settlements in other areas?

Will the city council in collaboration with its donors, private sector, NGOs or other government agencies provide decent housing to these people?Or they will be evicted on government power domain since most of them have no land tenure documents or building permits? What is the perception of Amahoro cell residents on expropriation for new housing development?

This research sought to answer these questions and analyzed the impacts these solutions will incur if implemented, considering Amahoro cell in Muhima sector, Nyarugenge district as case study.

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